Today, as we continue our What’s Your Story series, I welcome Cindy Johnston and her adoption story. Cindy is a “communications guru” at Ada Bible Church, wife, mom, writer, and all around great woman. Cindy writes on her own blog (check it out HERE). She is a contributing author at the Burnside Writers Collective (read her story HERE) and Circle of Friends ministries (read her articles HERE). Please join me in welcoming her today.
I’m in the middle of a million chapter novel and the main character is me. And let me tell you, I have been the hero, the villain and everything in between.
I’m exhausted. And if writers live their character’s lives, then I can only imagine that God is more exhausted than I am.
That being said, I think one of the best and most difficult chapters in my recent history has to be the adoption of my two boys, David and Wilson.
I always knew that I would adopt children. Seriously, since I was very young I knew it was part of how my family would grow. It didn’t really happen the way I had intended but it definitely was not a last resort to have kids as so many people tend to think.
I somehow managed to get locked on the endless, traumatic fertility cycle that wreaked havoc on my body and my psyche. The level of pain I endured and for the length of time I endured it, is really nothing short of a miracle that I survived as well as I did.
But the day came when I said “no more”.
My heart was set on adoption in the U.S.
There are so many children in the States that will wind up in the foster care system and bouncing from house to house; their lives a sea of inconsistency and insecurity.
So an agency was chosen and I did everything I was told to do.
I went to every Waiting Family class that dealt with everything you could imagine from the best bottles to use to birth mother presentations to how to survive the holidays. Some of them were inspiring but some of them stripped away already raw flesh and left me feeling more vulnerable and insecure than I ever thought possible.
I followed the agencies’ advice and networked to find a birth mom. In January 2004, we did just that. She was a beautiful young girl and was due in June. I leaned into her life, cooked for her, helped her with school work, helped her mom, bought her little do-dads and trinkets just because I loved her.
Truly, I loved her.
Erica went into labor early. I was in Vancouver at the time and trying to decide whether or not to fly back. The doctors were able to stop the contractions and she told me to stay. Everything was fine.
In June, Erica gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. We named her Hannah Grace.
And then it happened.
Erica decided to parent.
There are simply no words to describe the feeling of knowing the child you deeply love is not coming home with you – and worse, she is going into an abusive home.
It was as if Hannah had died right in front of me – but worse because we knew she was going into a home where her life was going to be brutally challenging at best.
I received the news at work and raced to the bathroom where I was sure I would die.
The entire office staff showed up in the bathroom and held me and prayed with me as I sat curled in the fetal position struggling to breathe, struggling to keep from vomiting, desperately grasping at any semblance of reality.
The next few months are a blur.
I get why a lot of people want to adopt overseas. There is risk with any adoption but it is different here in the States. Overseas you more often than not have no connection with the birth parents. Here, first they both have to agree to adoption, then release their rights in a court hearing, and still they have time to change their mind and choose to parent.
But God has placed on my heart it needed to be a U.S. adoption and somehow I managed to summon the courage to keep moving forward.
In spite of everything, I still wanted to adopt.
In September 2008, just three months after Hannah, a call came from the agency that a birth mom had chosen us to parent.
My answer was a very cautious yes.
I had limited communication with Audrey. Her mom updated me from time to time but mostly I waited, and loosely prepared a room for the baby boy I prayed would soon be mine.
Six weeks later the call came and Audrey was in labor.
It was probably the scariest time in my life as I stepped out in faith and allowed myself to try and be in the moment – to open my heart just a little so that I didn’t miss out on the memories.
I was in the waiting room down the hall when I heard it…a cry that was loud and strong. He was here and I found myself holding my breath.
As I peeked through the nursery window at this tiny miracle, I was filled with love but my heart was still guarded. What if it happens again? What if she chooses to parent? Could I survive that again?
I was startled out of my thoughts with the nurse exclaiming “Well come on, Mama! He’s starving!”
It was a beautiful miracle when she placed him in my arms and the years of infertility treatments melted away, the agonizing memory of Hannah replaced by this beautiful moment with my son.
The tears started to flow and soon I was so overcome with emotion I was sobbing, holding him tightly, and praying. I have no idea what those words were. I believe the Holy Spirit interceded for me in that moment…speaking what the tears spoke.
Time marched on and I found myself pregnant. After seven years of infertility treatments and being told I would never have kids, I was pregnant.
I was stunned and elated.
But again the tide turned and I was facing a pregnancy where my baby had died but my body was refusing to let go.
At that last ultra sound I looked, pleading with God for a movement, a twitch, something that would say it was OK and my baby was fine.
But there wasn’t a heartbeat. There wasn’t movement.
And I was faced with surgery and letting go – again.
It seemed to me that if God was going to wire me to be a mom, that the process shouldn’t be so hard. That at some point, the doors of mommy-land would open and children would pour through the doors.
But that isn’t my story.
Two years after my miscarriage, I decided it was time to tell the agency I’m done. I felt God had decided that I am David’s mom so I was preparing to lean into his life in ways I would not be able to if I was a mom of several children.
I was OK with that.
So on December 31, the home study would expire and I could breathe and live my own life without being tethered to an agency or living in the constant state of wondering.
Naturally, that’s when God spoke loudly and said “Cindy, I’m not done with you yet!”
December 30 a call came saying a baby boy had become available. And with less than 24 hours notice, I was driving across the state and just like that became a mom again to a sweet, curly headed boy we named Wilson.
This chapter in my life, this quest to parent-dom, is long and I can only touch upon it here. The memories are deep, vivid, wildly complicated and at the same time, breathtakingly beautiful.
Adopting in the States is a tricky process but adopting from anywhere is a tricky process. In the end, I was simply following God’s call for my life in this season.
So often people will tell me how lucky my kids are to have me. My response is always the same: I am blessed in ways beyond what anyone can imagine. I am connected to these kids in ways that that permeate my soul. I breathe for them and feel for them.
I have no idea what I am doing about 90% of the time but I love them with everything I am.
Luck has nothing to do with it.
It is a beautiful story only God could have written.
Oh Cindy, I didn’t know all these various pieces to your story. Thank you for sharing with us. You are inspiring as you lay down your pen and listen for the story that God is writing into your life. Much love to you!
I decided a long time ago that if God gave me a voice for my story, I would tell it. It isn’t easy to lay my life out like this but the story is so beautiful that I do a disservice to his work in my life if I don’t. Thanks for the encouragement!
I know God will use your story to touch so many. Truly. Your authenticity is beautiful.
Wow! What a testimony! Thank you for sharing this part of your life, Cindy.
Thanks, Jen! I miss seeing you!
tearing up over here! What a journey you have been on! Thanks for sharing a snippit of life. You are an amazing woman following an amazing God!
Thanks, Jean! You know very well what it is like to allow God to write the story of your life. I continue to pray for you and Ed.
Oh wow Cindy! I was nearly in tears too, and my own experience of having children has been remarkably straightforward. Thank you so much for sharing the amazing thing that God has done for you. Wow.
Thanks for the kind words, Megan! It’s an honor to share what God has done in my life…even when the memories cause me to catch my breath to this day.
Your words have moved me to tears. I, too, didn’t know some of these touching stories. You are an incredible story teller and I would be first in line to buy your book. Love you
What an awesomely raw story. Thank you for sharing.
This is beautiful, thanks so much. My wife and I are hoping to start the adoption process soon, so this is beyond encouraging.
That is awesome, Brandon! How exciting!